From the archive

A look back at the Ob­server Mag­a­zine’s past

The Observer Magazine - - Up Front -

The Ob­server Mag­a­zine pub­lished the first of two ar­ti­cles on life af­ter death (‘The ev­i­dence for life af­ter life’) on 8 April 1979 and be­gan with the case of Ge­orge Ritchie, who was re­sus­ci­tated with adren­a­line af­ter he’d ‘died’ for nine min­utes in an army hos­pi­tal in Texas in 1943. He had a re­li­gious ex­pe­ri­ence some time af­ter, but it would be 35 years later, when he was a doc­tor and psy­chi­a­trist, that he pub­lished his ex­pe­ri­ences in Re­turn from To­mor­row.

One of Ritchie’s stu­dents Carl Fis­cher at med­i­cal school, Ray­mond Moody – ‘a burly and beam­ing man, with a philoso­pher’s fore­head who con­verses with vis­i­tors in a rock­ing chair which he keeps in con­stant mo­tion’ (not un­set­tling at all then) – looked for sim­i­lar ac­counts af­ter hear­ing about Ritchie’s ex­pe­ri­ence.

In the ar­ti­cle, Moody says he ‘will not be drawn into the pub­lic de­bate on the sig­nif­i­cance of his find­ings… I have done as much as

I am go­ing to do in this field.’ Ex­cept that he went on to do just that, pub­lish­ing books with ti­tles such as Glimpses of Eter­nity; The Light Be­yond and Para­nor­mal: My Life in Pur­suit of the Af­ter­life.

Other than the ‘au­to­scopic’ ac­counts – an out-of-body ex­pe­ri­ence, where you feel as if you’re look­ing down on your­self – there are ‘tran­scen­dent’ ver­sions, where ‘aware­ness passes into an­other mode’ and one sees, for ex­am­ple, ‘a fig­ure of light who helps a re­view and eval­u­a­tion of the past life, and shows the unfinished work which is still to be ful­filled be­fore dy­ing fi­nally’. Per­haps they’d just been watch­ing A Christ­mas Carol.

In an­other ac­count, one man said he saw him­self ‘come off the ta­ble about 9-10in’ when they were ‘rub­bing those things to­gether’ (a de­fib­ril­la­tor)

– a myth still prop­a­gated to this day by Hol­ly­wood films and TV dra­mas, the nadir of which was prob­a­bly Flat­lin­ers (1990). The main mir­a­cle be­ing how any of the ac­tors man­aged to have a work­ing life af­ter it.

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